Read from Weasel Zippers:
Hope and change.
(Washington Post) — The U.S. economy lost 1.2 million jobs between June and July. But that’s not how it got reported. When the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its jobs figures for July, it said the economy gained 163,000 jobs. So what gives?
BLS isn’t hiding anything. The discrepancy just has to do with what’s known as “seasonal adjustments.” The U.S. economy follows certain predictable patterns in hiring and layoffs every year. School districts always let workers go for the summer and hire in the fall. Retailers always staff up for the Christmas holidays and lay people off afterwards. Students always flood the labor market in June.
So if we want to know how well the economy is doing, we want to know how many jobs were added after taking these predictable fluctuations into account. Some seasonal adjustments are necessary before the data can tell us anything useful.
And this is exactly what BLS does in its monthly jobs reports. As Jacob Goldstein of Planet Money points out, the U.S. economy had 1.2 million fewer jobs (pdf) in July than it did in June. But, according to the bureau, the economy still had 163,000 more jobs than one would’ve expected, given seasonal trends. That’s a sign of a steadily recovering labor market. So BLS reported it as a 163,000 gain in jobs.
In theory, that makes sense. But some economists and analysts now wonder if the BLS seasonal adjustments are somehow off a bit. If the financial crisis and recession mucked with the seasonal ebb and flow of the economy, then the adjustments that BwerLS makes for its monthly reports might be a bit skewed. Some jobs reports might look much better than they actually are. And others might look worse.